Your risk of developing colon cancer is increased by almost 100 per cent if you smoke, startling news that comes from a study done in Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is the first large population-based study in Canada that shows a clear relationship between colorectal cancer and tobacco use, says senior author Dr. Peter Wang from the faculty of medicine at Memorial University in St. John’s.

Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest incidence of colorectal cancer in the world, and smoking is also quite common in the province, with about 34 per cent of the population lighting up.

Dr. Wang studies ways that colon cancer can be prevented, and the latest study has pretty powerful data.


“Putting this in a population perspective, the number of cases of colorectal cancer can be reduced by 13 per cent if tobacco smoking could be completely eliminated,” he says.

The effect of smoking as a risk factor for colorectal cancer is stronger in men than women. Colorectal cancer is more common in industrialized countries such as Canada, and far more rare in Asia and Africa, so it makes sense that something in the environment is accounting for the high rates.

Here’s how the study was done: Between January 1999 and December 2003, Dr. Wang and colleagues studied the health habits of two groups of people: 702 people with colorectal cancer and 717 people without the disease. All subjects were between 20 and 74 years of age.

They found 96 per cent higher risk of colorectal cancer among current smokers than non smokers.

Smoking’s not the only avoidable thing that raises your risk of developing colorectal cancer.

One of Dr. Wang's recent studies found that eating pickled meat — a commonly-found food in Newfoundland and Labrador — elevates a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer

The study results were published recently in the Canadian Journal of Public Health.


The stats on males vs females
This year, it’s estimated that 22,500 Canadians will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. That’s 12,400 males and 10,100 females. About 9,100 Canadians will die of it. This makes it the second leading cause of death from cancer, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Latest From ...